Well-known journalist, broadcaster and author


LOUIS McREDMOND:LOUIS McREDMOND, who has died aged 78, was a journalist, author and broadcaster. Editor of the Irish Independentfrom 1968 to 1970, he subsequently became RTÉ head of information and publications.

He was removed from the Irish Independenteditorship without being given any reason. He concluded that the root cause was a major disagreement on policy with the newspaper’s board; it appeared to him that the board wanted a more “pop” newspaper, but this was not his kind of paper.

To him, “a paper like the Independent was a national institution” and could not be changed in the same way as a breakfast cereal.

Born in Mitchelstown, Co Cork, in 1932, he was the son of John J and Anne McRedmond. Educated locally by the Christian Brothers and at Clongowes Wood College, Co Kildare, he secured an MA in modern history at University College Dublin in 1954. That year he was also called to the Bar.

He joined the staff of the Irish Independentas a sub-editor in 1956. He wrote on religious matters for the paper and reported on the second Vatican Council and the first Synod of Bishops. His reportage reflected a deep understanding of the council and its implications for Irish Catholics. His book The Council Reconsideredwas published in 1966.

Having served as chief leader writer and deputy editor, he was appointed editor in 1968.

Following his departure from the Irish Independent, he worked as a freelance journalist and broadcaster. An early commission was a series of articles on the Dutch Catholic Church for this newspaper.

In September 1970, he was appointed as the first director of the journalism course at Rathmines College of Commerce (now DIT). This pioneering course was planned with the help of an advisory committee which included representatives of the college, NUJ, newspaper management and editorial executives.

In August 1973, he joined RTÉ to co-ordinate the station’s activities in relation to publications, audience research and information to the public.

He was critical of the curbs on freedom contained in section 31 of the Broadcasting Act, which directed RTÉ not to broadcast interviews with members of subversive organisations.

“Some circumstances require the public to have a clear understanding of what is happening and why it is happening,” he argued in 1981. “This understanding cannot be arrived at without proper journalistic analysis and explanation. Analysis usually requires interviews in depth.”

Acknowledging that some controls were necessary, he suggested that it would be better to make RTÉ responsible for drawing them up and answerable for their implementation.

In 1982, he warned that RTÉ’s role as a public service broadcaster was in serious jeopardy. Without an increase in the television licence fee, spending would have to be cut. Consequently, the “rich variety of services for special interests within the community, minority interests and regional interests” would bear the brunt of the recession.

He resigned from RTÉ in 1986 following changes in the station’s management structure. His decision to resign followed controversy over the creation of the post of director of public affairs, which he felt would undermine his authority as head of information.

His books include Thrown among Strangers: John Henry Newman in Ireland(1990) and To the Greater Glory: A History of the Irish Jesuits(1992). He edited Garret FitzGerald’s autobiography All in a Life(1991) and was editor of Modern Irish Lives: Dictionary of 20th-century Biography(1996). For RTÉ he edited Written on the Wind: Personal Memories of Irish Radio 1926 -1976.

He wrote for the Furrow and Studies and was Dublin correspondent of the Tablet.He also was a trustee of the radical Christian newspaper Alpha.

A keen observer of social mores, in a lecture at Milltown Park, Dublin, in 1974, he stated that the age of the superficial had arrived, with values being turned upside down.

Children were being treated as adults, invited to form opinions before they were given adequate information from which to draw conclusions.

Meanwhile, the church was still treating adults as children and defining their needs without asking them what they really wanted to hear about.

In London in 1986, he argued that majorities in Britain and Ireland were often less than they appeared to be. The instinct to claim massive majority support for particular causes came from “nostalgia for the certainties and decencies of yesterday and panic on seeing them decline”.

Those who disagreed with the nostalgic view were depicted as devotees of an alien philosophy.

A Christian of strong conviction, Louis McRedmond was also a loving husband and devoted family man. He loved to travel, but remained true to his roots and was a loyal supporter of Munster rugby.

NUJ Irish secretary Séamus Dooley this week paid tribute to McRedmond’s “strong interest in journalistic ethics”. RTÉ head of corporate communications Kevin Dawson described him as “a man of warmth and wisdom”.

Journalist John Cooney stated that he would be remembered as “one of the ‘battlefield’ founding fathers of religious journalism in Ireland”.

His wife Maeve (née Gallagher), sons Michael and David, and daughters Anne and Elizabeth survive him.

Louis McRedmond: born May 20th, 1932; died January 16th, 2011.